The American Wigeon is a very pretty duck. The male has a bright white flank and a white line on its crown, a dark green patch behind his eyes, and a light grayish-blue bill with a black tip. The female is a dull gray to light brown in color with the blue bill and its black tip. Read More….
The Barrow’s goldeneye is a quiet bird that will only make during the breeding season and during courtship. These sounds include grunts, squeaks, and croaks. When in flight, their wings will make a low whistling sound as they flap. The Barrow’s goldeneye is considered an arboreal bird species because much of its nesting is done in mature trees. Read More….
In the spring Black Brant head up the coast of North America stopping in the pacific northwest. Their arrival on Vancouver Island is a cause for celebration, as thousands of birds descend on coastal beaches and flats, to feed on eelgrass. The towns of Parksville and Qualicum Beach host a Brant Festival every April. Read More….
The black scoter breeds in western Alaska, Labrador, and Newfoundland and spends winters along coasts from Alaska south to California, from Newfoundland south to the Carolina’s, along portions of the Gulf Coast, and on the Great Lakes. We have a large winter population in the Pacific Northwest. Read More….
The Bufflehead Ducks are a familiar sight on the Pacific Northwest waterways, you can sometimes see them in large rafts, it’s quite the sight to see and when they take off, it is done in unison. Buffleheads are small black and white diving ducks with small gray bills. Read More….
All Canada Geese appear to look the same, but did you know there are many different types of Canada Geese. They differ mostly in size as some of the smaller types weigh as little as 1 kilo with a wingspan of 90 cm, while some other varieties can weigh up to 8 kilos and with a wingspan of more than 2 meters. Read More….
The common goldeneye is a medium-sized sea duck. Their closest relative is the similar Barrow’s goldeneye. The species is named for its golden colored eye. Adult males have a dark head with a greenish gloss and a circular white patch below the eye, a dark back, and a white neck and belly. Read More….
The Pacific Northwest has a large population of Common Merganser Ducks who live here year-round. The common merganser is a beautiful duck, it is a freshwater diving duck, feeding mostly on fish but will also take insects, mollusks, crustaceans, worms, frogs, small mammals, birds, and plants. Read More….
American coots may feed at the surface or dip to reach food beneath the water, they can dive up to 10 meters deep to feed at the bottom. They eat mostly plant material, including stems, leaves, and seeds of pondweeds, grasses, and algae. They will also eat insects, tadpoles, fish, worms, snails, crayfish, prawns, and eggs of other birds. Read More….
Greylag Geese or as they are commonly called, the Grey Goose, can be found in North Africa, Greenland, the Middle East, Asia, and Japan. On rare occasions, they will visit North America. I have seen them on Vancouver Island a few times, mixed in with the Canada Geese and the Coots. Read More….
The Pacific Northwest is used as a wintering ground by both greater and lesser scaup. They are often found together, but the larger size of the Greater Scaup makes it easy to distinguish between them. They breed in the boreal forest of the western North American Arctic. It is estimated that three-quarters of the North American population breeds in Alaska. Read More….
Green Wing Teal
The Pacific Northwest has a large population of migrating Green-winged Teal that arrives in the spring. The extreme south coast has a small number of them that stay year-round. Green-winged teal can be found around rivers, marshes, and coastal estuaries. Read More….
The Harlequin Duck is a small, uncommon sea duck. Although, on the south coast, there is a large population of them. Harlequins spent most of their life in coastal marine areas. During winter, these ducks gather at traditional sites along the coast to feed in the winter seas. But in the spring they leave the coast and head up rivers and streams to breed. Read More….
Male Hooded Mergansers have a large white crest surrounded by black. The head, neck, and back are all black, and the chest, breast, and belly are white. Black lines can be seen on the sides and flanks. The tail is brown. The bill is black and the eyes, legs, and feet are all yellow. Female hooded mergansers have a grayish-brown head and neck with a reddish-brown crest. Read More….
The lesser scaup winters in the pacific northwest in great Numbers and can be seen almost everywhere. Lesser scaup prefers lakes, marshes, and estuaries. They primarily eat mollusks, insects, and plant material. They dive in shallow water to forage or dabbles in shallow water. Lesser scaup occur throughout most of North America, we have many that winter here. Read More….
Long Tailed Ducks
The long-tailed duck commonly forms large flocks in winter and during migration. They feed by diving for clams, crustaceans, and small fish. Although they usually feed close to the surface, they are capable of diving to depths of 140 meters. They are the only ducks that use their wings to swim as they dive, this allows them to dive much deeper than other ducks. Read More….
Mallard Ducks can be found on rivers, ponds, lakes and along the shores of our island, the mallard is one of the most common and well-known waterfowl in the northern hemisphere. Mallard Ducks are widespread, year-round residents of many areas in the pacific northwest, Mallards can be found near any shallow water source, including lakes, rivers, ponds, ocean bays, and estuaries. Read More….
Mute Swans are large birds that are capable of flight but prefer not to fly. Male swans are called cobs, female swans are pens, and young swans are known as cygnets. The mute swan has a long curved neck and an orange bill with a black knob at the base. Read More….
Northern Pintail Ducks are common ducks found over all of North America. In the west they breed from Alaska to California, they migrate to the Pacific coast in the winter. The northern pintail duck is a dabbling duck and tips its rear end up to feed on submerged plants, seeds, and invertebrates. It can be found feeding in the evening and at night. Read More….
Northern shoveler’s breed in the short and mixed-grass prairies of Canada and the north-central United States. They prefer shallow marshes that are mud-bottomed. The nest is generally located on the ground in grassy areas lacking woody cover and away from open water. The female will lay up to 9 eggs. Read More….
Red Breasted Merganser
The Red-Breasted Merganser winters in the pacific northwest but breeds farther to the north. The adult male in breeding plumage has a reddish-brown mottled breast, white neck collar, green head, red eyes, and a serrated orange bill. The back is black and white, while the flanks are gray. Read More….
Ring-Necked Ducks breed from Alaska to California including all of the coast and eastward through northern Canada right to Newfoundland. They prefer sedge-lined swamps and bogs that are surrounded by scrub brush and small trees. Read More….
The Snow Goose is a large bird, we sometimes see them in small numbers along the Pacific Northwest coast during the winter months. Adults here on the coast are usually all white with dark primaries and orange legs. Juveniles are gray overall with dark legs. There are two subspecies of Snow Goose, the Greater and the Lesser Snow Geese, which vary in size. Read More….
Surf Scoter Ducks are found in the Pacific Northwest. Ducks who are not breeders anymore will stay here all year round. The surf scoter occurs only in North America. They are virtually unstudied, particularly during the breeding season. They winter in shallow marine coastal waters of Pacific North America and all of Vancouver Island. Read More….
The Trumpeter Swan is the largest waterfowl species native to North America. Most trumpeters weigh 10 to 15 kilos, although some large males may exceed 18 kilos. The male is called a cob and the female is a pen. With a wingspan up to 2.5 meters, these beautiful white birds are incredible to watch. Standing on the ground, an adult Trumpeter can be as tall as 1.25 meters. Read More….
The White-Fronted Geese are named for the bright white patch found at the base of the bill. Both sexes are similar in appearance, but the males are a bit larger. The chest and breast are grayish with dark brown to black blotches and bars on the breast. The belly and upper and lower coverts are white. The bill is pink and the legs and feet are orange. Read More….
White Winged Scoter
The White Winged Scoters nests on freshwater lakes and wetlands in the northwestern interior of North America. They favor large brackish or freshwater wetlands and lakes in their breeding range, with the highest concentrations on lakes that have islands covered with dense, low shrubs or herbaceous vegetation. Read More….
The Pacific Northwest has a large population of breeding Wood Ducks that migrate here in the spring. Wood Ducks on the Pacific coast breed from California to British Columbia. In recent decades, the breeding range has expanded eastward into the Great Plains region following the development of wooded riparian corridors. Read More…
Waterfowl are among the most diverse and fascinating creatures there are. They inhabit every continent except Antarctica. There are so many of these birds here on our island that it is simply amazing. They have such a variety in shape, color, and size. BC has many types of ducks and geese that never leave our shores, they stay year-round.
Ducks, geese, and swans can be found wherever there’s water, from the tropics right up to the arctic north. When I worked in the arctic, I was always fascinated by how many types of waterfowl nest here. Vancouver Island is right on the pacific flyway and the spring and fall migrations are just wonderful to observe.
Migration of these birds is largely a learned behavior passed down from generation to generation. Ducks and geese navigate the way that other birds do, by using solar and celestial compasses along with an awareness of the earth’s magnetic fields.
In most other bird species, adults and juveniles migrate separately. Ducks migrate in family groups for the southbound flight. This is when the young ones learn the path, the good stopover sites along with the good wintering grounds. Ducks tend to separate over the winter and head north by forming new groups. The hens have a strong need to return to their birthplace. Males do not and will simply follow the hens, as they mate with new hens each season, this will take them to a different site every year.
The geese, on the other hand, take several years to mature and quite often the family remains together for several migrations. Males pick their mates on the wintering grounds and usually mate for life.
They fly in a variety of formations. Geese stay in their flock formation from takeoff to landing, keeping the flock together throughout the entire migratory journey. The population of some geese is increasing at a very fast rate and causing problems on the nesting grounds. Snow geese are an example of this. An estimated 6 million birds now nest in Hudson Bay, they have become the most populated bird in the north. However other waterfowl populations are decreasing due to the disappearing wetlands and other migratory habitats and it is up to us to protect and increase remaining habitats for all migratory species.
These birds are incredible to observe and to see huge flocks heading north is a wonderful sight, All you need is a pair of field glasses, a camera, and a notebook to record your sightings. Along with a good pair of boots and a warm jacket and you’re on your way to seeing the wonders of the migrating birds. But be careful, you might become addicted, l have.